CFW Retail Week: Dr. Anush Amarasinghe on the impact of plastic

By Naveed Rozais

Last week’s edition of CFW Retail Week, Colombo Fashion Week’s reimagining of retail experiences for the new normal, featured Beira Parawood Products Ltd. (BPPL) Holdings PLC Managing Director Dr. Anush Amarasinghe delivering a keynote lecture on the impact of plastic on the environment.

Dr. Amarasinghe’s celebrated career spans from being an early investor and Chief Operating Officer of Millennium Information Technologies in 1999, to being a Founding Partner and investor in E-Channelling, Sri Lanka’s premier e-commerce platform, to being a Director as well as an early investor in Alumex Anodising and Machine Tools (Pvt.) Ltd. in 2004.

Dr. Amarasinghe’s most recent investment is in BPPL Holdings PLC, which he acquired in 2012. BPPL Holdings is one of Asia’s largest manufacturers of brushware and related tools and has been transformed into a significant eco-friendly institution taking great steps to recycle Sri Lanka’s PET waste.

Dr. Amarasinghe’s lecture marked the first speaking event at CFW Retail Week’s Environment and Conservation Week and focused on Dr. Amarasinghe’s and BPPL Holdings’ work with plastic and recycling. Dr. Amarasinghe went on to speak about the well-known impacts of plastic that is not recycled properly, and the way this impacts not just the environment but also the animals living in those environments.

Dr. Amarasinghe explained how BPPL Holdings’ subsidiary brands have taken bold steps to minimise the impact of plastic waste pollution, using their infrastructure, capacity, and knowhow to process plastic in their factories to make value-added recycled goods from plastic waste.

Dr. Amarasinghe discussed BPPL Holdings’ subsidiary Eco Spindles, which produces synthetic yarn and filament for both the local and foreign manufacturing market and yarn using recycled PET plastic, giving new life to plastic that would otherwise pollute our environment and oceans for centuries to come.

With an expansive network that involves stakeholders from all business sectors including the public, private, and individual sectors, Eco Spindles has over 300 plastic collection centres around the island that have been set up to responsibly collect plastic waste for recycling; 3,000 tonnes of plastic waste each year – the equivalent of 100 million PET bottles and approximately 20% of Sri Lanka’s imported plastic.

Part of Eco Spindle’s mission is to prevent plastic waste from getting to oceans. “70% of all pollution is plastic pollution,” Dr. Amarasinghe shared, adding: “And 70% of all plastic produced is single-use.” Dr. Amarasinghe said that Eco Spindles and BPPL Holdings advocate responsibility from the ground level up, encouraging fishermen to bring plastic waste they find at sea to be recycled, compensating fishermen for plastic collected. Fishermen alone hand in about 20 tonnes of plastic waste a month for recycling. “The idea is to start by reducing your own carbon footprint.”

Eco Spindles uses PET bottles to extrude polyester flakes which are then used to create polyester yarn. Eco Spindles spins polyester yarn directly from the polyester flakes and is one of only two companies worldwide that do so. The Eco Spindles processing plant is also designed to use 95% less water than other plastic extrusion processes.

Dr. Amarasinghe also discussed another one of BPPL Holdings’ subsidiaries, Beira Brush, Sri Lanka’s largest brushware manufacturer, which also repurposes plastic waste in the creation of the bristles of its brushware.

Dr. Amarasinghe commented the innovation was vital in order to scale new heights in sustainability. “Innovation drives new breakthroughs,” he said, adding: “Even the smallest change here can have the biggest impact in the future.”

Dr. Amarasinghe also shared that BPPL Holdings had only scratched the surface of addressing plastic waste, explaining that it was their goal to double the collection goals while creating a stronger islandwide network that benefited rural communities and created employment.